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Gambia bans all timber exports to curb rosewood smuggling

July 2, 2022

Trafficking of timber is rampant in the country because of the high demand for rosewood in China.

Rosewood Sculpture "Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival"
Rosewood is a prized commodity in China both for making furniture and for wood carvingImage: Qiu Wenshan/Costfoto/picture alliance /

The Gambia banned all timber exports, and permanently suspended export licenses of wood on Friday. The West African nation is trying to curb the illegal smuggling of endangered rosewood.

"All existing permits issued for the export/re-export of timber are permanently revoked," the information ministry said in a statement. The government instructed port authorities to oversee and prevent any loading of logs onto any vessels. Authorities will also carry out random searches of containers.

Trafficking of timber is rampant in the country because the high demand for rosewood in China.

Behind the ban

In 2012, the West African rosewood tree was declared nearly extinct in Gambia. But even then, the country has remained one of the largest exporters of the species to China, along with its neighbors Senegal and Guinea-Bissau.

Much of the rosewood being sent through the Gambia is believed to hail from the southern Senegalese region of Casamance — which is far closer to Gambia than to major Senegalese ports like Dakar and where Senegalese government control is limited amid a separatist movement in the region that has largely held to ceasefires in recent years.

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, The Gambia has exported an estimated 1.6 million rosewood trees since 2012.

Earlier, President Adama Barrow tried to curb rosewood trafficking when he took office in 2017. But he never implemented a full export ban until now.

The ban is effective immediately.

According to figures from the Obersvatory of Economic Complexity, timber and wood products are an important export commodity for Gambia, with exports valued at roughly $16.7 million in 2020. Only gold, by far its most valuable export commodity, and nut and fish products generated more revenue.

ss/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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